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Ottawa offers many free and low-cost things to do for families looking for vacation deals. Ottawa Tourism suggests the following summer activities for budget holidays.

Beach holidays

Free Ottawa beaches include Britannia Beach, on the Ottawa River, west of downtown, Mooney's Bay Beach, on the Rideau River, south of downtown, Petrie Island Beach, on the Ottawa River, east of downtown, and Westboro Beach on the Ottawa River, just west of downtown. For beach conditions, call 613-580-6744, ext.13219.

Beaches are open this summer from mid-June to late-August. Lifeguards supervise the beaches from noon until 7 pm daily.

Gatineau Park, north of Ottawa, has five serviced public beaches and Smith Beach for camping. Located around Philippe, Meech and La Peche lakes, the beaches are open daily from the middle of June to mid-September.

Lifeguard supervision is available from 10 am to 6 pm. There's a nominal entrance fee for vehicles. Pets are not allowed on the beaches.

Free things to do on Parliament Hill

Visit Parliament Hill to see the free daily Changing the Guard ceremony. Arrive at 9:45 am for the introduction before the 30-minute ceremony.

For a free same-day tour of Parliament, visit the tent near West Block before the Changing the Guard ceremony for a ticket. Evening tours are cooler and less crowded.

Ontario's first UNESCO World Heritage Site

Rent canoes, kayaks and pedal boats to paddle along the Rideau Canal from the Dows Lake Pavilion at 1001 Queen Elizabeth Driveway, until Labour Day.

At the north end of the Rideau Canal, Rent-A-Bike offers bike rentals for reasonable hourly or daily rates.

Mer Bleue Bog

Go hiking in one of southern Ontario's largest bogs in the Ottawa Greenbelt. The United Nations' Ramsar Convention designated Mer Bleue as an internationally significant wetland. When you hike along the boardwalk, you see wildlife in a northern ecosystem that's more like the Arctic than the Ottawa Valley.

National Gallery of Canada free admission

On Thursday evenings, admission is free to the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

Canadian money

The Royal Canadian Mint, in Ottawa, makes hand-crafted collector and commemorative coins, gold bullion coins, medals and medallions. On tours, visitors learn about master tooling to create the dies for coin designs for circulating and commemorative coins.

Learn about the history of money, including currencies like shells, teeth and cocoa beans, used by other civilizations, at the Currency Museum. Located in the Bank of Canada headquarters on Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa, the Currency Museum offers free admission.

Family vacation packages

Ottawa Tourism offers a Family Discovery package, which includes two nights' accommodations, family admission to two of nine museums, tours, attractions and a Rideau Centre Visitor Values coupon booklet.

Other Ottawa hotel packages include Sip, Savor and Spa, Cultural Odyssey, Rendezvous for Two, Casino Getaway and Tulip Celebration.